Durkin: Jerry Angelo And The Anatomy Of A Failure

By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) It was déjà vu all over again on Sunday for the Bears.

The Packers win the toss and march (no, really fly) 80 yards in eight plays, with five first downs, and, of course, seven points. Go ahead and blame the defense if you must for coming out flat and unprepared, blame the offense if you’d like for being perpetually inept.

I’ll blame the general manager.

Certainly, I can’t be the only one who wonders why Jerry Angelo is still calling the shots for the Bears. It’s not like he’s new to this job; his tenure pre-dates the iPod. What exactly has Angelo done to make him the fifth most tenured GM in the league? The answer to that question is a mystery, as his hits are greatly outweighed by his misses. Let’s look at the facts.

Angelo maintains the Bears have a “draft-driven” philosophy to building their roster. Yet the numbers tell a different story. In his ten years on the job, Angelo:

* has never drafted a Pro-Bowl offensive player;
* has not drafted a Pro-Bowl position player since 2004 (making the Bears one of 10 teams in the NFL to carry this distinction);
* drafted a mere three offensive lineman from 2003 through 2006 (one sixth and two seventh round afterthoughts, none of which are currently on the roster);
* filled only three current roster spots from the 30 draft selections made from 2004 through 2007; and
* generated a grand total of one current starter (left guard – and bust – Chris Williams) from eight first-round draft picks.

That is just a small sample of the personnel-decision failures. Bear fans surely don’t need to be reminded of the fact that Troy Polamalu was selected two spots after Michael Haynes, or that Vincent Jackson was selected 22 spots after Mark Bradley, or that….okay, I’ll stop.

Even Angelo’s greatest success, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler, has also been his biggest failure. Angelo went out and made the bold move to acquire a quarterback with elite talent, yet he’s done nothing – nada – to protect and maximize the return on this investment. The Bears line up every week with a rag-tag group of offensive lineman who provide porous protection, and third-rate receivers who can’t create separation from defenders or catch the ball when it’s thrown to them.

Angelo must be held accountable.

Angelo claimed after watching quarterback Jay Cutler get battered in New Orleans: “We did everything you could possibly do to that [offensive line] position. Nobody did more than the Chicago Bears.” You heard right. Angelo and the Bears did “everything.” Here is what everything means in this context: drafting Gabe Carimi in the first-round and picking up free-agent Chris Spencer – who was a knee-jerk reaction to the failed negotiations with former Bear Olin Kreutz. When did everything become a synonym for next-to-nothing?

What could Jerry Angelo have done if he really meant to do “everything,” and then went out and actually did it? Recall that this past off-season featured an unprecedented 667 free-agents. And further recall that the Bears were armed with ample salary cap space – reportedly $34M – to make multiple moves to bolster an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 56 sacks last season. 

If the Bears had truly done everything – or at least more than the next-to-nothing they did do – to improve the offensive line, they could line up this Sunday with some or all of the following free-agents: Jermon Bushrod, Davin Joseph, David Baas, Harvey Dahl, and Matt Light. Might that line be providing Jay Cutler with just a bit more protection?

Giving Cutler time to throw a pass would be a step in the right direction, but how about giving Cutler some talent to catch his passes? Caving to Devin Hester’s contract demands back in 2008 and paying him like a number one wide receiver, doesn’t make Devin Hester a No. 1 wide receiver, yet that’s what Angelo tried to sell us on. 

When your quarterback looks to an undrafted, rookie free-agent, Dane Sanzenbacher, as a go-to guy in the red zone, that is a complete indictment of talent evaluation. And when your big off-season additions are a washed-up first-round bust, Roy Williams, and a special teams gunner, Sam Hurd, you’re clearly in denial about the talent-level of the current wide receiver corps.

What’s really sad here – and, for Bears’ fans, tragic – is that Angelo’s inability to bring in offensive talent capable of competing on Sundays has wasted the prime years of Super Bowl-caliber defenses and special teams. Angelo spent much of his tenure with the Bears trying to assemble his own version of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that played smothering defense, and did just enough on offense to eek out a win.

The Bears offense has ranked better than 26th in total offense just once in ten years under Angelo, in 2006 when they were 16th. Meanwhile, the defense has finished in the top 10 three times, and Devin Hester has established himself as the greatest kick returner in NFL history, providing envious field position that other teams would surely capitalize on.

The NFL has experienced a fundamental shift to a passing league during Angelo’s tenure. Per usual, the Bears were late to the game, and their solution was to bring in offensive coordinator Mike Martz. This hiring, to borrow an Angelo-ism, was a square peg in a round hole. 

The Bears don’t have the blockers, receivers, or the quarterback with robot-like mechanics to sit in the pocket and wait for slow-developing pass routes to effectively run Martz’s scheme. So while Tom Brady is on pace to throw for 7,077 yards, the Bears are on pace to give up 75 sacks.

This slow-to-evolve approach makes Jerry Angelo a lot like a fax machine. While the rest of the NFL elite operates in a digital age of multi-function machines that can scan and email at dizzying speeds, the Bears rely on antiquated technology that is near obsolete, and wonder why their weekend match-ups end up stalled like a paper jam.

Ten years is a large enough body of work to realize that Jerry Angelo’s stewardship simply hasn’t and isn’t working for the Chicago Bears. And until you can add “former” to Angelo’s current general manager’s title, it will be more of the same for the Bears. Miring in mediocrity, catching a lucky streak here and there, only to fall short in the end.

Oh, by the way, Jerry Angelo is signed through 2013, and his likely successor, Tim Ruskell, is already a part of the Bears’ front office. So, odds are it will be déjà vu all over again in 2012.

durkinsmall Durkin: Jerry Angelo And The Anatomy Of A Failure

Dan Durkin

Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.

More from Dan Durkin
  • Bernstein's Michelle Bachman Vote

    Dan this post is just another example of why you are so good at what you do. I say that even though it made me sick to my stomach. These 3 points alone should have him fired-

    •drafted a mere three offensive lineman from 2003 through 2006 (one sixth and two seventh round afterthoughts, none of which are currently on the roster)
    •filled only three current roster spots from the 30 draft selections made from 2004 through 2007; and

    •generated a grand total of one current starter (left guard – and bust – Chris Williams) from eight first-round draft picks.

    Also the response by Angelo after the Saints game is enough for me to never want to even have to look at him again. FURIOUS!!! Hard to even believe he said that, though somehow I do. I’m a lifelong bears fan but its depressing to think about the future with an aging defense and this front office and the probable next GM (Ruskell). Someone please talk me off the Bear ledge!

  • Joe K.

    Great read, Dan. Nailed it. Now excuse me while I cry.

  • http://travel2chicago.us/chicago-news-stories-forsep-28-2011/ Chicago News Stories for Sep 28 2011 : Travel tips, hotels, restaurants, jobs and news | Travel 2 Chicago

    […] man had a gun and used it on an intruder this week, and now the alleged home invader is dead. Durkin: Jerry Angelo And The Anatomy Of A FailureGo ahead and blame the defense if you must for coming out flat and unprepared, blame the offense if […]

  • Mike

    reading columns like this make my wonder how guys like Biggs, Mulligan, Pompei and Haugh still have jobs

  • Roman

    I don’t see the problem. The Bears finished top 5 in profits last year and I’m sure they will again this year. I mean, sure, they should try to be #1, but top 5 is pretty good.

  • tommy v

    You are correct across the board. The reason Angelo still has his job is because a talented general manager would cost money. Bears don’t spend money on anything worthwhile. The Bears sign Cutler to a nice contract and then sign Orlando Pace and some washed up tight end to help protect him. That’s like protecting a ferrari with toilet paper. Until McCaskey sells the team, get used to mediocrity. Interestingly enough, the only time they win their division is when the other teams are measurably worse then them, not because the Bears are that talented. Green Bay was decimated by injuries last year, adjusted, and came back to win the Super Bowl. How did they do that? Smart coaching, excellent drafting, good free agent signings.

  • Ramo Geezus

    This article is depressing……..NO MATTER WHAT, I STILL LOVE MY BEARS!

  • dan

    thank you all for reading, and the kind words. very humbling and much appreciated.

    it’s about time that root cause of the bears issues is exposed, as angelo simply has not done the job he was hired to do.

    cheers & bears!

    @djdurkin on twitter

  • Steven M. Frederick

    Angelo and Martz are gone.

  • mike in davenport

    I’m sure Angelo isn’t an idiot; he knows that some things have to happen, but he can’t make a lot of the moves that need to make because it would be admitting failure, which provides reasons to get rid of him.

    Whether Angelo can do anything good from ehre on out is immaterial; he needs to go now, so a new GM can come in and be free to make sweeping changes.

  • Chad

    APPLAUSE!!!! Great Column!

  • Seth Neal

    Spot on Dan. Damn… what a sad last 10 years being as we had a defense as talented as it was.

  • ac

    great article, yeah this bears team should have appeared in at least 3 Super bowls in the past 10 years. the defense was playing unbelievable and the special teams were top notch too. byeee lame duck Lovie and the rest of the stooges…Please Bill Cowher ….we need you.!!!!!!

  • Joe

    What an excellent article and sad indictment of the Chicago Bears, a team we all love. Not only have we wasted the remaining years of the leagues best line backers we are wasting a good quarterback in his prime. And then there is the Greg Olson trade when you need touchdowns, does it get any worse .

    The fron office at a high level needs to do something and if Ted Phillips will not then h3e needs to go as well.

  • el yaqui

    So what if Angelo is gone!! What’s left? Tim Ruskill?? Some consolation.

  • James

    We need a clean sweep of the front office. But we’ll never see that. Everyone from Ted Phillips down to Lovie need to go. We need a clean slate. Bill Cowher would be a nice start or maybe John Gruden.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live